Fathers Day is a non-holiday for me, like most holidays, really, which revolve around family and celebrations of family. If I didn’t make Snarky Cards, I wouldn’t have registered it at all. And, in fact, the first year I made Snarky Cards, I didn’t, despite the inquiries I got from everybody around. I was just totally confused by the concept. “Send something nice to your father? On purpose? Voluntarily?” It didn’t make a lot of sense.
But this year, I had all that contemplative time at The Rose Festival and a few daddy’s day requests, so I asked people to describe their nice Dads, and I made a few cards, and in the weeks since then, I’ve sold a few. Today, is the event itself, and I’ve put up my favorite Father’s Day card, on etsy for all the world to see.
See, if you don’t have a good Dad, you find other men who show you love and support as you grow up. A step-father or good uncle, one of your Mom’s boyfriends or a family friend.
My Dad was bad (big surprise, I know). My family didn’t have friends, because my parents are crazy. and my uncles are also crazy, save Uncle Joel, who decided not to talk to me until I was 18, because my family thought I was a terrible child, and a terrifying teen, and he didn’t want to get blamed for my corruption (I had to corrupt myself all by my lonesome).
So I didn’t have any real role models. But I had TV. Maybe that’s the part of the Fathers Day card that was so initially confusing. I may find my role models in TV, but I’m not convinced that they’re real people. I know that they’re archetypes, and if I met them in real life, I would be able to talk to them enthusiastically about the characters that they play, but outside of that, we probably have nothing in common. I get that they’re fake. So, it never occurred to me to send them a card.
This post is a tribute to my Fake Dads, all of whom are characters on television.
1. Gerald McRaney amazed me on Major Dad. I couldn’t stand watching this show when I was a kid. The few glimpses I had of it, when I was changing channels showed a man who loved his wife and daughters and was trying to do his best by them. The contrast between Major Dad and my own father was too painful for me to watch, and it seemed dangerous for me to know how nice a Dad could be. I was already kind of pissed about my sitch. Knowing how good it could have been, seemed like it would make me a powder keg. And when I was a kid, anything that ratcheted up the anger and violence between my father and I put me in danger.
So I kept my distance. But I will always remember the few scenes I saw, because they made me cry with wistfulness. Major Dad was a good guy. Who felt lucky to have his family. He loved his daughters really well. And the possiblity that in tv-land I could be one of those daughters made me feel good.
This year, I started watching Jericho, in which Gerald plays Mayor Green, who is the mayor of the small town in Jericho, Kansas when 23 nuclear bombs are dropped all over the US. The town runs out of food, water, electricity and they have to create a totally new economy without any money or contact with the outside world -a pulse after the attacks knocks out all electical stuff like phones and computers.
It’s a modern day old-west tale. Like when we were kids and we played Oregon Trail as kids. The thing is, I always lost at Oregon Trail. All my family died of fever, or sometimes just a plain old river crossing. And we ate most of our cattle on the way there. The horses got sick, or we never made it through the winter. It was so fucking annoying. I spent as much time as I could in the computer lab, trying to save each new family I made. It never worked. I hated technology and I hated Oregon. And I hated the Old West.
So, I was surprised to find out how deeply I loved Jericho. And Gerald McGraney didn’t disappoint me again. He is a great Mayor, taking care of the town like a Dad. And even though he’s a better Dad to one son than to the other, he tries hard with both, and he tells them how he feels, and he listens when they talk. I cried almost every time he opened his mouth, on that show: the speeches he gives, the compassion he shows for his town and his family, and people he doesn’t know, is astounding. I’ve put off watching the third season of Deadwood, because I can’t bear to watch Gerald McRaney be a terrible person. Even though I’m proud of my Fake Dad as an actor, I just want to see the peices of his acting that make me feel like there are good Dad’s in the world.
2. Jerry Orbach comforted me as Lenny on Law & Order. Law & Order is my favorite show. I’ve seen every episode of the show, and all of it’s spin offs. That’s 449 hours of television for the basic Law & Order alone. At least 200 of those hours, were with Lenny. He was an old drunk, and he’d been a philanderer, and an absent father. But he was sorry about all the shit that he’d done in the past, and a really sweet guy in the here and now.
I knew if I got into trouble, Lenny would want to help. And if he’d been my father, he’d be sorry he hurt me when I was a kid. I had a really hard time when Jerry Orbach died. Knowing he was in TV-land, investigating crime, and making bad jokes made me feel safe and secure. We’re lucky that he left us those 200 odd hours to comfort us.
3. Giles from Buffy (played by Anthony Stewart Head) made me feel like I was on the right path. I am a Buffy Fanatic. When I’m sad, or discouraged, or alone, I watch either Aliens, or Buffy. Watching Hot Chicks kick Monster Ass soothes me, and bucks me up, “If Ripley can do it.” I grimly tell myself “So can you.” Buffy has a different effect. I don’t actually like Buffy very much, she’s self-involved, and she hates books. We don’t have a lot in common. But I like her friends, and her family and her ability to Kick Ass. And I wish I had a Father Figure like she does. Giles also dislikes Buffy on some basic level. He hates her music, and thinks that she’s got her priorities wrong, and gets angry at her for her immaturity and her rebellions. In other words: he acts like her Dad. But the thing is, despite all of that, he loves her. And it’s his job to help her Do Great Things. And he takes that responsibility very seriously. When I wish I had someone in my life to focus me, to remind me that I’m capable of greatness, I watch Buffy, and listen closely to Giles. And I feel less alone.
There are more Fake Dads on my list, but I think that you get the idea, and I don’t want you to become convinced that I am this giant weepy monster made up solely of feelings and crying.
So I’m going to stop. Happy Fathers day, Fake Dads! Wherever you are, we appreciate all you’ve done to buck us up. You didn’t have to, and that meant more to us than if you’d put your penis in our Mommy’s Vagina.